- Order in the court
- JetVideo trial begins
- Christmas time
- Order in the court
It came as something of surprise to many online publishers. An Aussie mining magnate felt he'd been defamed by the Wall Street Journal but instead of suing in the US, where defamation laws are less strict, he chose to launch a case in Victoria, his home state where, coincidentally, defamation laws are much stricter.
The Dow Jones legal team argued that the case should be answered in the US - that's where the paper was published, that's where any defamation would have taken place.
The Aussie legal system disagreed. Three times now. The High Court in Australia has ruled that the Dow Jones appeal is out of order and that the case must be answered in Victoria, and so it will be.
Why is this important? Until now online publishers have assumed that any defamation case brought against them must be brought in the legal system of their home state or nation. Publish in Sweden and be bound by the Swedish rules on defamation.
This is patently absurd and would mean that any online publication that defamed someone in another country would get away scott free. Consider the following example.
You're a hard-working Kiwi who has a story written about you in a US paper. It says you're a lover of ducks who has no social life. You feel upset by this and want to argue that it's harmed your reputation. You go to the US to the local court and tell them this.
"What reputation did you have in this state that has been so harmed?" asks the court. Well, none, you reply. I live in New Zealand. Well go back to New Zealand and leave us alone, says the court, as no defamation has occurred here.
See? Defamation doesn't occur where a piece is written or produced - defamation occurs where the defamed person has lost his or her reputation. In this case that's Victoria.
Why should you care? You're publishing all the time. You write emails, don't you? You write instant messages, you post to news groups, you reply to postings on websites. Any and all of these things are publishing and whether you like it or not you now have to take into account the defamation laws in the part of the world where the person you are potentially defaming is based.
Fortunately, New Zealand law is very similar to that of Victoria - that is, it's harsher than the rest of the world. In most places, a good defence against defamation would be "I honestly believed it to be true when I wrote/said/filmed it, your honour." In New Zealand this is not the case. You have to prove what you wrote/said/filmed was true rather than relying on your belief that it was true.
That's a harsh difference. If someone tells me in an email that the head of a company is corrupt and has been taking bribes for years, I can't write that unless I can prove it. Simply saying "but I was told that and I believed them" isn't a defence.
The Aussie press are seriously upset about this. They're claiming that US-based media will have to censor their publications to avoid upsetting Aussie laws, and I say good on them.
Publishers should take into account the laws of the land of the person they're talking about. It's not that big a deal to say "right, we're talking about an Argentinian man - what are the laws of Argentina?". It might actually make some of the US press look at an atlas more often if nothing else.
This precedent could also be applied to other cases, not just defamation. What about Fair Trading, or Copyright or (my personal favourite) the Privacy Act? New Zealand has a very strict, very straightforward privacy law that says if you gather a person's personal details for one reason (say contact details on a warranty) you can't use them for another purpose without that person's say so (say selling to a third party for marketing purposes).
The US has no such law and there are many cases of US companies gathering information online for one purpose and then changing the terms and conditions on their websites to say "oh, sorry, did we say we wouldn't sell your information? Oops, well, we can now. Thank you and have a nice day." Perhaps using this judgement as precedent you'll be able to instruct your lawyer to launch a breach of privacy case against these companies here in New Zealand using New Zealand law. I'd pay good money to see that.
So all told it's very interesting. Not only are the world's online publishers forced to realise that the world wide web is really world wide, but those that conduct flame wars will also have to pull their heads in.
This is a good thing.
- JetVideo trial begins
Not another court case but rather Telecom's pre-commercial launch look to see if anyone wants to watch movies downloaded off the net.
Short answer: muh.
Long answer: Yes, but probably not to their PC.
Telecom has signed a distribution deal with Intertainer Asia to provide movie content to home users.
Which home users? Well currently there are 100 homes scattered around Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Taranaki. Most have the service to their JetStream connections on their PC but a lucky handful have it to set-top boxes. That's right, Telecom is doing television to, well, your television.
Let's be real here - how many of you want to watch movies on your TV? That's good. How many of you want to watch movies on your PC? Both of you see me after class.
Telecom acknowledges that there isn't much of a market for folk wanting to see films on their PCs - much better to deliver them to the telly instead. But it's hamstrung by the need to use DSL (JetStream) and that means PCs at the moment.
And not just any JetStream either - JetStream Starter users need not apply. You've got to get an average speed of 1500 Kbit/s or forget it.
Time for a sheepish admission here - I can't count. My maths teacher in the third form, Mr Arksey, used to despair of me and rightly so it would seem. The first time I tried to work out how much a 2GB movie would cost to download on a JetStream 1000 connection I stuffed it up completely. Fortunately the web is quite forgiving and we erased the error as soon as we worked out that the real price is $200 a gigabyte over the 1 GB limit.
Still, $200 is steep for a movie. I'd probably only pay that to see The Two Towers and even then the financial controller wouldn't be amused.
And so it is that Telecom may be about to rethink its billing process for JetStream in light of such services. How can you justify charging $200 for the same amount of traffic that you're going to be selling to a movie-on-demand user for only $7 or $8? You can't, so something has to give. Let's hope the new year treats us well.
- Christmas time
Righto, I'm off to the beach. Enough of this frivolous city life - time to recharge the batteries.
Thanks to you all for reading each week, and thanks to those that take the time to write in. Here in the FryUp kitchen we love cookies. Emails. We love Emails.
The FryUp will be back early in the New Year so look after yourselves in the mean time and we'll see you in the future.